Pile driving causing sticky mess for Warehouse District residents

Pile driving causing sticky mess for Warehouse District residents

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The construction of a new hotel in the Warehouse District has some residents fuming after they said the project spewed hazardous chemicals all over their property.

"When we first noticed that there was this goo all over our property, they told us it was just water. When we pushed further and did our own research, it turns out it is a pretty toxic chemical," said Erin Biro, who lives next to the construction site for the new Cambria Suites.

FOX 8 checked with Landis Construction, the company doing work on the project between Tchopitoulas and Commerce, and they confirmed they were using a product called Lenox Band Ade, a chemical typically used as a metalworking lubricant.

A safety data sheet from the company that provides the lubricant claims the material is considered hazardous by the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard and can cause skin corrosion and serious eye damage.

In a video provided by a resident, you can see what appears to be rain, but the sky is clear. The resident said that runoff came from the construction company's pile driving equipment and seemed to be an oily substance.

"What people are actually seeing is water coming out, and then we do have a lubricant that's used that's cut ten parts to one with water, so it's very diluted. Hearing the neighbors' complaints we have ceased using it while we get it tested in an abundance of caution," said Anne Teague Landis, the CEO of Landis Construction Co. LLC.

Landis said until the test is completed, the site will use cooking oil to lubricate equipment. Still, other business owners just feet away from the site said the problems don't end with the messy runoff from construction equipment.

"We saw the lubricant coming all over our property when they were - I mean we have piles that are no more than five or six feet from our patio, as well as we've already had real damage in here, our concrete base foundation floors are cracking,"  said Kathy DeBruhl, who runs a law firm next door to the site of the new hotel.

Landis said it would cover damage through insurance if it's certain it was caused by their work and told FOX 8 they use vibration monitors to ensure the pile driving doesn't have a negative impact.

Residents are anxious for the pile driving to cease, saying it's shaking up their lives.

"It's unbearable. I have a 6-month-old, and it's completely changed our way of life, it's completely changed nap time, it's almost unlivable here," Biro said.

"We have lawyers that cannot work in their offices because of the pile driving, we really can't take conference calls in certain areas, we've stopped asking clients to come down," DeBruhl said.

The residents and business owners know the construction noise is simply a nuisance and welcome progress in their neighborhood, but they said it's tough to look past the potentially hazardous mess from the construction equipment.

"I think that ability to have a new project here, no one was ever against it, it just doesn't fit in the land, it's just not adaptable to what it is, and it truly doesn't seem to be fitting into the historical aspects of the area," DeBruhl said.

Not everyone is upset with the project, though, citing the potential influx of new business into the Warehouse District.

"It's really cool to take old buildings and reconstruct them, but sometimes we need new buildings as well, so to have something coming into the Warehouse District as opposed to the Quarter, especially with the crime rate jumping in different places in the city, it's nice to have options," said Karmen Capella, who works at Lucy's Retired Surfers Bar near the project.

The construction company said they would clean any patio or balcony that was covered with runoff from their equipment.

Landis said the pile driving should be complete in about a wee,k and construction of the hotel should be complete around the first quarter of 2017.

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